Wednesday, January 29, 2020

January Update: I'm Still Here

Hey look! I'm actually updating my writing blog! How exciting is that? I wasn't sure I'd have anything to say after last year.

But I do.

I am still a writer.

That's mostly what I wanted to say.

This month, I've actually done some writing. About 5,700 words. Writing that I was excited about, that wasn't a chore! I even met with the girls on a Saturday like old times and Dianne and I talked for hours, building a world and developing a general plot. It was so, so awesome. That's one of the things I've missed the most. Hanging out with the girls, talking craft, working on brainstorming together, looking up after some quiet writing and sharing when you've come up with something clever. It's the part of NaNo I missed out on. And that is probably a lot because I didn't go to any write-ins. But also because, at official write-ins, I never felt like I could just hog an entire afternoon to talk about my ideas.

I was having these wild, steampunk, sci-fi dreams for about a week early this month. Then, we had a couple of really foggy mornings. And an idea was born. After much daydreaming and freewriting, and even making a kindergarten-level model, the world is precariously built, and I have the beginning of a story. Most of the words for the month were brainstorming, but over 500 words were on the actual novel. I've even got a Pinterest board. I am excited about this idea.

Of course, that means I haven't written on it much at all since mid-month. It's not that I'm scared or anything, but I'm being cautious. I don't want to force things. Writing was harder than I wanted it to be, when I finally did it. I know it'll come back, but it's a lot of work right now. And I've also been sick, which takes away some of the writing energy.

But, not only do I have this cool idea I'm having to build a whole world for, complete with climate and politics and fashion (because Dianne), but I also came up with a steampunk romance story I'm excited to tell, as well. I haven't done any world building for that one, beyond trying to describe what was in my dream. It could very well be in the same world as my NaNo novel was, but it could also be its own. I haven't decided yet. I really just want to tell the story, then I'll figure out details. Which, of course, is what got me into trouble with Dream Machine back in November. But even with all the world building I've done for the other new idea, I haven't done much actual storytelling yet. So there's a balance to strike in there somewhere between prep and actual writing.

My brother and sister also finally got to read Druid Wars. They both liked it (Aron loved it, and Emily liked it but had some feedback for me, in general saying she didn't love it as much as MystWatch). So I have some excitement for that world again, as well. It will probably be a long time before I go back and make the changes Em suggested for book one, but I found the opening I wrote for book two, and I am kinda toying with the idea of revisiting that this year.

And, as always, I'm always drawn to MystWatch. Just walking around Lawrence, I feel the pull of that world, the stories I've told and still want to tell, there. I still haven't gotten feedback from anyone else but Amanda on book three, but I'm about to go through without and fix things, then send it to Em and Aron anyway, make them be my beta readers. I asked Em if she'd be willing to give me feedback on stuff going forward, and she seemed excited about it, so that makes me happy. The next book I finish is going to her first.

Although to be honest, I do not know what book that will be right now. In my last blog post, I talked about how this year was going to be the year I was going to wrap things up, since this blog is on it's "last year," but I think what I've realized is that, despite needing a break at times (sometimes a longer break, sometimes shorter), I will always be a writer. Noting my progress and accomplishments here helps remind me of that. It helps me get excited when I get things done and helps me remember when I'm in a slump that those moments will pass.

The biggest thing right now is that I'm making a conscious effort to divide writing from publishing. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do as far as publishing. Despite swearing that I'm not making any plans anytime soon, I often think about self-publishing, or what I might submit next. I'm just not making any decisions right now. I'm going to see what ends up happening this year as far as writing. Focus on product, then maybe next year figure out what I want to do with that product, if anything.

So for this year, I've set a goal to write 5k words a month each month. That's it. That's my only goal. No finish this or start this or submit this. Just, write what I feel like writing when I feel like writing. I've spent several years with such a structured writing schedule that it might be nice to just relax and go where the wind takes me. But, setting a goal to write 5k words a month (and keep up with this blog), will keep me in touch with writing, so I don't end up adrift with no creative output for months. I can write 5k in a couple of days. Even if I don't have a creative inspiration at some point during a month, I can fake at least a few thousand words, or make up those words on another month.

So yeah. First check-in post of the year, and of the decade! I'll probably shift to posting at the ends of months this year rather than beginnings, unless I have big updates. So for now, until the end of next month. Leap-year February!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

December Update: 2019 Achievements and the Uncertain Path Ahead

For some reason, I thought I'd already written a December post. Woops. Guess I should do that, now.

So, NaNoWriMo was a bust. I never even made it to any write-ins. I went to some of the non-writing events, but I stayed out of the Discord completely except for the midnight kickoff, and I stopped checking in on the forums after the second week. I swore the event off completely on the 20th when they announced validating wasn't going to be a thing, revealing they'd done nothing but lie and miscommunicate with MLs and users the whole flipping month (and much of the month before that). The NaNO HQ staff totally ruined the event for me, which sucked, since I'd already been struggling with writing so much. I mean, if it had been like every other year, it still might not have rekindled my love for writing. But as it was, I stopped writing after the first week, and all of my good feelings toward NaNo soured shortly after that. It's unlikely I'll ever go back, if I'm honest. And while some of that is due to my struggle with writing these days, a lot of that is I think it's time to move on from NaNo.

Some of my quitting last month was because my novel idea took a turn I wasn't ready to follow after. I think it's going to be a cool world, but it's not something I'm interesting in writing about right now.

Although to be fair to the novel, I'm not really interested in writing about much of anything right now.

At any rate, between the 5k words I wrote on the novel and another 2k words I wrote brainstorming a dream, I ended up with a little over 7k for the month. Which is more words than I've written in a single month since May. I wrote almost 5k in June, but not much more than 5k total in the months between June and November. So. I wrote some words, finally. More than just brainstorming words, too. Yay.

Trouble is, I still have no love, excitement, or passion about writing. I didn't enjoy writing any of those seven thousand words. It was perfunctory. Like a chore. Something I felt like I was supposed to do. I think I mentioned that last entry (I only wrote one other day after that post aside from the 2k brainstorming day on the 19th), and that never really changed.

So, yeah. I'm still not in the right mindset to write. I did get a little excited as I read back through this year's blog posts, though. I made some pretty awesome progress those first several months.

This progress should be noted, as this is, essentially, my year-end post.

In 2019, I:
  • Wrote nearly 60,000 words over the course of the year
  • Finished final edits on Druid Wars and queried 50 agents
  • Edited MystWatch book 3 and sent it out to beta readers
  • Wrote an entire Sally Prescott adventure and started on the next one
  • Wrote over 10,000 words on Chain Letter Choice and outlined the rest of the book
  • Brainstormed on ideas for EIGHT new stories/books (wow!)
  • Started writing a new sci-fi novel for National Novel Writing Month
  • Wrote a story (and a half) for the Confabulator Cafe and kept it running for its last year
  • Beta read one novel and several short stories for writing friends
  • Finished Masterclasses from Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume, and James Patterson
  • Went to Murdercon in North Carolina with Rachel and learned a ton of cool stuff

I mean, for breaking up with writing, this year, I did pretty damn well. I know 60k words isn't a ton, but I edited two novels and queried a book. I also did Masterclasses and a convention to learn more, as well.

There's one or two things I might try to do in the next two weeks, but we're approaching holiday crazy time, so I don't hold out much hope. I'd really like to finish the Cafe story I was supposed to post in October. And I'd like to send Druid Wars to my brother and sister for Christmas. And I definitely need to write a "Cafe is Closed" post for the Confabulator Cafe.

And then I head into next year. I don't know what next year brings as far as writing, yet. I've given myself permission to not write for as long as I need to. And I'm enjoying doing other things.

But I miss being a writer, sometimes. I miss making plans, updating my progress, and, if I'm honest, getting lost in my imagination. There's a lot of baggage associated with being a writer, and I don't miss that stuff. But I miss being a writer at a very fundamental level. We'll see if I can get back there. It may take some more time, and it might take scrapping everything I've ever written and starting fresh. I'm not sure.

I do know that I'm planning on starting a new blog to talk about my journey toward homesteading and self-reliance. I'm not sure how much I'll update there. And I really don't know how much I'm going to update here.

We'll see how I feel in January, but I'll probably still try to check in here once a month. It is the last year before this blog reaches the end of the 10-year journey. So I should keep it alive for at least the last year of my 30s.

Talk to you again when I'm 39. Happy holidays, and a joyous and safe New Year to you.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

November Update: Taking Stock

I wrote a total of zero words last month.

Even with meaning to write a story for the Cafe, I never wrote a word.

Well, that's not true. I wrote words. Blog posts. Journals. Emails. Plans. But no stories. I did a tiny bit of brainstorming for NaNo, but the blurb I wrote for the website was probably only a couple hundred words long, so I didn't count it.

Part of me was trying to save my creative energies for NaNo. Part of me decided I didn't want to write out of obligation. Yes, I wanted to tell the story, have one last tale from that serial on the Cafe...but it didn't happen.

That's not to say it won't. I will probably try to write it at some point this month, become a bit of a NaNo rebel, and maybe even write a Cafe story for the "goodbyes" prompt.

But maybe not.

I've got a small start on my NaNo novel so far, but I'm days behind par and I'm not really feeling much about the story I'm telling. Again, I find that I'm writing more out of obligation than any joy. It feels like a chore because it's November. It's a thing I need to mark off the to-do list, like laundry or paying bills or doing dishes.

So. It looks like my passion for writing really is winding down. NaNo hasn't really fixed anything, just re-emphasized that something is well and truly broken. And by broken, maybe I just mean played out.

I'm getting close to the end of the time I set aside to achieve the goal I set back when I turned 30. The reason I started this blog. To be a published author by the time I'm 40.

Next year is the last year for that. And...it's not enough time. I don't have a book ready to query, and even if I spent a few months finishing or cleaning up, beta readers wouldn't get it back to me in time to query and get any solid yes or no from an agent or publisher. And I'd need more years to actually sell that book to a publisher from there.

Even adjusting my goal to getting a book accepted by someone is probably impossible. Which isn't to say I should stop trying. It's not like I turn into a pumpkin the second I turn 40.

But. I have spent most of the last ten years working toward this goal. And I have had some success. I have had over half a dozen short stories published. I've won writing contests. I've queried two complete novels. I even finished writing an entire urban fantasy series.

Cobbled together, I guess you could say I achieved my goal, more or less. I am a published author and I did everything within my power to get a book out there.

And I'm tired. Or not even that, really. I have lots of energy when it comes to other pursuits. But with writing, I'm tired before I even begin. I need my passions to give me energy, not take it away.

So, I think, even though I could continue to strive for this goal beyond my thirties and into my forties...I don't think I'm going to. Next year, my last year in my thirties, I think I'm going to wrap stuff up. Decide what the last things I want to accomplish as a writer are, then close the book on this part of my life.

I guess this really should be more of a December post, rather than November. But I think I'm going to spend the next month or two figuring out a plan. I might actually move from writing new content to getting MystWatch out there. I could feasibly spend all next year cleaning it up, hiring cover artists and editors, then put it out after my 40th birthday. I kinda like that, honestly. Would be a really nice way to honor the last decade of work. My capstone project, as it were.

The only real problem with that plan is finances. I haven't saved up any money to actually self-publish. So we'll see. I'd have to borrow from my other savings goals to do it, and hope that eventually I could pay it back. I might not be ready to do that next year. The self-publishing of MystWatch is more of a vanity project than any expectation that it's going to make any money. More just to say I did it. Getting settled in a new house might take some precedence over that. We'll see.

Anyway. Yeah. Still not writing. Still not excited about writing. Although I did finally get my first beta read back on MystWatch. Mostly positive, so that's cool. It needs a bit of work, but nothing I can't handle. And there's a fairly natural place to break it into two books (just about dead center, even which wasn't intentional, but hey!). That's something I've thought about doing with the second two books, and then drastically paring down the first book to make it a five-book series in all.

I'll update again in December. See if anything has changed. Maybe by the end of NaNo, I'll be back in the groove of writing. Then all this talk of taking a break will have been for nothing.

Or it might just be the last nail on the coffin of this whole writing thing.